Four Tips to Encourage You to Grab for the Gold Ring: Incentivizing Yourself to Higher Productivity

"I always felt that I hadn't achieved what I wanted to achieve. I always felt I could get better. That's the whole incentive."— Dame Virginia Wade, OBE, British former professional tennis player Incentivization may be a buzzword in business circles, but it's a buzzword for good reasons. Researchers have known for years that most employees aren't fully engaged with their work; some never engage at all. Even the best of us sometimes see our jobs as little more than guaranteed paychecks—a means to the end of a comfortable lifestyle or, in more troubled times, fiscal survival. Hence the need for motivators not to just do better work, but to bother to work hard at all. Motivation has always been a prime worry of management, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. (← click to twee … [Read more...]

Four Ways to Get Better at Your Job Right Away: Stepping Up to Boost Your Productivity

"Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy."–Saadi, ancient Persian poet. It should go without saying that one of your primary goals as an employee is to improve at your job, and most of us set out to build toward peak performance using time-tested, long-term methods that produce over time. We've all heard about the 10,000-hour rule, and how it gradually lifts us toward expert status; and you've probably seen it at work in your own career. I certainly have. Most improvements are gradual like this. That said, there are things you can do today that will noticeably improve your productivity within 24 hours, if not right away (← click to tweet). They're not magic---just common-sense ideas you may have lost track of as you hustled to get your job done. And while these t … [Read more...]

Seven Ways to Beat the Benchmark – The Value of Stretch Goals

  "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., American poet and philosopher. The above quote is one of my favorites. In this New Year, how can you extend it to your performance? Make a decision to stretch yourself beyond your ordinary productive limits! We Americans are famous for our productivity; we regularly exceed our previous peaks. This has become particularly true since the beginning of the electronics revolution, and continued even during the Great Recession of 2008. In part, this may be because we've learned to stretch our abilities to new dimensions—since for a while there, we had no choice. But just as even the finest Spring has its cool or wet spells, not everyone regularly increases his or her prod … [Read more...]

Six Ways to Prepare to Excel: the Connection Between Groundwork and Productivity

 "Be prepared."—Boy Scout Motto. According to legend, Albert Einstein shared this characteristic with the late Steve Jobs, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and U.S. President Barack Obama: he pared his wardrobe down to a few simple outfits, so he didn't have to worry about what to wear every morning. Whether it's true or apocryphal for the great physicist remains uncertain, but it's an established fact for the three aforementioned leaders. Simple routines represent a great way to triage your schedule and save time for what really matters. If you think about it, that's one way that advance preparation can improve your life. What other routines can you establish to prepare in advance and heighten productivity? 1. Marshal your resources the evening before. If you know you'll need certain f … [Read more...]

Four Cases When “Working Smarter” Really Works: Getting Beyond the Cliché

"Work smarter, not harder." – The advice of countless well-meaning managers over the decades. At some point—or perhaps many points!—you've probably received the advice to "Work smarter, not harder." Just about all of us have heard the phrase, to the point of it becoming a meaningless cliché and catch-all slogan. The problem here lies in the fact that most of the people who say this to you have no clue what it means. They're just repeating what other people have told them. Bluntly ask them, “How exactly do you ‘work smarter’?” and they'll most likely just look at you blankly. My entire career has involved helping people find ways to get more work done in less time. That's one definition of working smarter, and it's composed of multiple parts, including ruthless time management, delegatin … [Read more...]

Thirty Seconds or Never: The Role of Impulse in Productivity

"Once begun, half done." – Ancient Chinese proverb. Sometimes, it can be supremely hard to get up off your "buts" and get moving—as we've all discovered at some point in our careers. We all have our low points, where it's hard to believe we can ever regain old ground, much less rise to new peaks of productivity. I've been there myself—yes even as an author and noted authority in the productivity space—I’ve had days when my energy and mood have been at such a low ebb that it was hard not to crawl back into bed at 10:00 a.m. But my responsibilities drove me to get moving, and once I was moving, it was easy to keep going. Per the law of inertia, an object in motion tends to stay in motion—but you must invest a certain amount of energy to put it into motion in the first place. One of the … [Read more...]

Five Reasons to Take Ergonomics Seriously… Whether or Not Your Company Does

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." — Jim Rohn, American motivational speaker. You've probably read and heard a lot about ergonomics during your career. But are you taking the topic seriously? When you Google the benefits of ergonomics, you'll find scores of articles about why companies should institute good ergonomic design, in everything from factories to the open-plan office. The upshot is, it always saves the business money, because it results in less wear and tear on the most important resource of all---the human one. However, one thing most articles seem to have in common is that they're aimed at upper management and those tasked with improving company-wide productivity. What about those of us doing the producing? Even if the company hasn't b … [Read more...]

Three Simple Family Routines to Make You More Productive at Work: Striking the Ideal Work-Life Balance

"The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home." – Harold B. Lee, American religious leader and educator. I find it amusing that some of my colleagues claim the concept of work/life balance is dead. It's not that they all believe you should give up on having a personal life if you want to get ahead at work, though this sometimes seems to be the subtext. Most simply believe work and the rest of life have become so intertwined we can't pull them apart, so we have no choice but to respond to email and Facebook requests on the beach or while doing laundry or dining with the family. Hogwash. Having boundaries and balancing work and the rest of life is absolutely crucial for your sanity, especially when you want to have a life once you retire. Besides, … [Read more...]

Seven Tips for Sick Days: Producing Even When You’re Under the Weather

"I see sick parents and kids every day. I also know many people who go to work sick because they don't have paid sick days. Having paid sick days would prevent the spread of illness and make sure people are not penalized for staying home when they are sick." — Dr. Ben Danielson, Seattle pediatrician. Although it would be awesome to actually stay home sick whenever you feel bad, it's not always possible. PTO tends to be limited in even the best of companies, and it takes just one bout of the flu to wipe it out. Many supervisors also look askance at people calling in sick, suspicious of faking, resulting in a chilling effect on the truly ill. And many people simply have no choice but to go in no matter how we feel, because our teams depend on us—and there's always some deadline bearing do … [Read more...]

The Twelve Steps to Activity-Goal Alignment; Or, How to Get Where You Want to Go

"When it is obvious that a goal cannot be reached, do not adjust the goal; adjust your course."—attributed to Confucius, ancient Chinese philosopher. When available, I enjoy watching the TV screens on the seat back in front of me, showing the plane’s current location and route, including the dozen subtle adjustments the pilot made along the way. The road to achieving any goal is like that airplane's flight. Activity-goal alignment requires you to constantly monitor your goals and repeatedly make adjustments to your course. Of course, this assumes you know what your goals are. Hitting your work goals isn't necessarily a complex process, but it does break down into a surprising number of steps you need to take into account before you can make any real headway. Just jumping in and ins … [Read more...]